Knox County, Ohio is often overlooked. From Knox County’s center in Mount Vernon, it is 45 minutes to Columbus and over 90 minutes from Cleveland. Don’t let the drive stop you, because Knox County is home to a glam hotel, a hip liberal arts college, and numerous hiking and biking opportunities. Here are just a few things to do in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and its surroundings.
Things to do in Mount Vernon, Ohio
Centered around a roundabout (or maybe more of a square-about), Mt. Vernon Square hosts a weekly farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Beyond that time, you’ll find antique shops, restaurants, and an excellent coffee shop. The Happy Bean has a warm, industrial feel. I could have stayed here all day. Can someone design my kitchen to look like this? I digress:
Ariel Foundation Park
After your caffeine jolt, head to the new Ariel-Foundation Park. Not far from downtown, and on the site of the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass manufacturing plant site, sits the 250-acre park. The landscaping is not something you’re used to, pieces of metal were refurbished to make sculptures, and crushed glass serves as a mulch-like substitute.
The Rastin Observation Tower is not for those afraid of heights! It’s 224 steps just to the observation tower! The view is worth the shaky knees, I promise.
If you’re visiting on a summer weekend, make sure you check out The Ariel-Foundation Park Facebook page for a list of upcoming events.
The Dog Fountain at South Main Plaza
Friends of Fido will enjoy visiting the Dog Fountain at South Main Plaza. Each whimsical statue is a different breed “feeding” the fountain. Other than one gray cat and a shetland pony, this fountain has totally “gone to the dogs.”
The fountain area has plenty of benches and a few picnic tables, so bring your lunch or dinner. Make sure you take time to walk around the fountain and enjoy its small details.
Things do outside of Mt. Vernon – throughout Knox County
Further to the east towards Gambier, Ohio is the Brown Family Environmental Center. The center, run by Kenyon College, is full of educational opportunities for young and old as it includes a Butterfly garden, a 7-acre prairie, and 8 miles of hiking trails. Our kids learned some new things in the nature center (and C petted a taxidermied squirrel- weird). The seesaw was also a hit with my family as well as my niece and nephew. There’s something about a natural play area to bring out the little child in the biggest of kids.
At this point, you’re just south of Kenyon College, so pop in and check out the historic campus. If the college was good enough for U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes and actor Paul Newman, it’s good enough for us lowly folk. Lol.
Needing more caffeine? Check out the trendy Wiggin Street Coffee.
Honey Run Falls
Continue even further east (Take 229 to SR 62 E) and head towards the small (and I mean, small) town of Millwood. Lying southeast of Millwood is a gem in the woods- Honey Run Falls (click for full post). The only waterfall of its kind in Knox County, and managed by the Knox County Park District, there is a hiking trail here and also access to the falls from the Kokosing River.
The rocks can be slippery, make sure the kiddos have proper footwear. Our tennis shoes worked just fine, but swim-type shoes would be best. The water is cold, but in the heat of summer, this is a great place to cool off.
(Like waterfalls?? – here are 15 more Ohio waterfalls to cure your wanderlust).
Kokosing Gap Trail – Gambier
A bicyclist or a train enthusiast? Plan a stop at the Kokosing Gap Trail in Gambier. Thirty miles of old train tracks have been converted to a bike/running trail that runs from Mt. Vernon to Danville.
The cool thing about this stop in Gambier is the restored steam engine and caboose. The 0-6-0 locomotive was built in 1940 and the Chesapeake and Ohio Caboose was built in 1924 and in use until 1979. You can even climb aboard and take a peak in the window! Families of all ages will enjoy learning history while getting some exercise.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, make reservations to visit Schnormeier Gardens. The gardens are only open Thursday- Sunday during June. These private gardens are a delightful way to spend an afternoon! There are numerous sculptures, a wooded trail, and plenty of places to relax in the shade. For more information read my post on visiting Schnormeier Gardens.
A Mount Vernon hotel
A few years ago, I spent one night at the Mount Vernon Grand Hotel and it was surprisingly luxurious for small-town Ohio. Tiled showers, pillowtop beds, and in-room Keurig coffeemakers make you feel like you’re in a big city boutique. Mr. YT gave me a night away for Mother’s Day (good job!!), so I was here sans kids, but I did see a baby and some tweens in the breakfast room. That said, my room only had a shower, so if you’re taking a baby or toddler you may want to call ahead and confirm you’ll have a tub. If you’re not taking the kids, take the hubby and request a king bed! 😉
My favorite Mt. Vernon, Ohio Restaurant
Need somewhere for dinner? I dined at the Alcove Restaurant. It’s a Mount Vernon classic- they’ve been in business over 100 years! I filled up on one of the best cheeseburgers and a slice of peanut butter pie (holy calories!). The Alcove has been recently updated and the swanky interior feels worlds away from small-town Ohio.
Have you been to Knox County or Mount Vernon, Ohio?